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BEST DIRECTOR Minneapolis 2004 - Michelle Hensley

Michelle Hensley's Ten Thousand Things Theater Company, which does most of its productions in prisons and community centers, performs with the bare-bones simplicity of street theater: no theatrical lights, minimal props, creative but simple costumes. But as nearly every theater fan in town has been saying for years now, the company's art is far from low budget. Hensley's interpretations tend to highlight the class-consciousness of the text, but she's never preachy. And she consistently digs right to the emotional core of a play, whether it's Shakespeare, Brecht, Rodgers and Hammerstein, or Kevin Kling. Hensley seems to devote most of her production resources to getting the best performers, and she's the kind of thoughtful, visionary director who attracts great actors. This, of course, makes her job a lot easier. Only the Guthrie and the Jungle can rival TTT in terms of thespian prowess. The company's recent production of Kevin Kling's At Your Service, featuring Luverne Seifert, Bradley Greenwald, and Jim Lichtscheidl, exemplified Hensley's gift for guiding the players to be broad but not hammy, loose yet always acutely engaged.

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